Description

    George Mason, Extremely Rare Autograph Letter Signed. "G. MASON" and "G.M." within the text. Eight pages, 7" x 8.25", "Fairfax County, Gunston-Hall", September 10, 1782 to his land surveyor. An incomplete but extremely detailed set of instructions to his surveyor in the process of surveying Mason's land titles south of the Ohio River. After an active political career beginning in 1758, Mason retired from the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1782 to attend to his private business. Mason was an early and experienced investor in western lands, becoming a partner in the Ohio Company in 1749 and served as its treasurer until his death in 1792. He spent a great deal of his time defending the company's claims. Here, Mason displays his astute business acumen in a set of incredibly detailed and exacting instructions for his surveyor who was documenting his western claims. He writes, in part: "The Bearer, my son William will deliver you fifty Portugal half Joe's, at 48s £120.0 in Virg.a Curr[enc]y...for the use of an Acct. & for the use of Capt. Hancock Lee, and £100 upon my own proper acct to defray the charges of surveying my lands in the western country...Thinking Silver would be a heavy & burthensom[e] Carriage for you, I have taken some pains to procure Gold. You misapprehended the proposal in my former letter; it would have been very unreasonable to expect you should advance such a sum of money for me; but as I knew nothing of your intention to settle in the back-country (until since informed of it by Capt. Lee) I thought you might probably receive a good deal of money there, for surveying for other people; which you would have to bring down with you, at your return; in which care it might be a Advantage (saving me the Risque of Carriage out, and you the Risque of Carriage in) if you paid the Carges of my surveys there, and received the same sum of money from me here, when you came home again; and it was in this View only, that I mentioned it to you. Upon the same principle of mutual convenience, and to save the trouble & risque of carrying money backwards & forwards, I am (according to an argument with Mr. John May, on behalf of his brother) to pay the amount of the principle surveyor's fees (in my surveys) to the masters of the college in Williamsburg, upon account of Mr. George May; it will therefore be proper that you adjust with him the amount of his part, and that he should give an order, on same direction in writing to me, to pay it to the college on his account, or a vouchers for my so doing, in Case of Death, or accidents thereafter. Capt. Hancock Lee has lately been here and upon an estimate He & I made (in which we made some allowance for accidents & disappointments) we both imagine that the sum of £100..0 of which I now send upon my own proper account ) will be sufficient to defray the expense of all my Surveys, vizt. chain Carryers...Hunters, & other charges, and the deputy-surveyor's fees, the principal surveyor's fees I am to pay to the college, are therefore mentioned: if we should move mistaken, and the charges should turn out higher, I will repay you the difference; and if on the contrary, it should not require so much , I make no doubt of your keeping exact accounts, & repaying me the over plus; and I thoroughly confide in your managing everything to the --advantage, & consulting my interest as your own: the good character you have acquired, and the Acquaintance I have with your Father, gives me the fullest assurance of this. Altho I wish frugality, & to avoid unnecessary disbursements, yet I would begrudge no Expence, that may be necessary to have the lands well bounded, & the lines plainly marked; and also to search & examine the grounds thoroughly so as to shape the Courses & extend the lines in such manner, as to avoid the indifferent, & & take in the best lands; and if this can't be done (on account of the legal restraint of making the one Breadth equal to at least one third the length ) in one survey upon each warrant, the number of surveys must be increased to do it; the Act of Assembly giving a right to execute a warrant in one or more Surveys; but particular care must be taken (in case of dividing the surveys under any warrant) to mention in the returns, or certificates of survey, the particular warrant by virtue of which each survey was made; and the amount of such different surveys must, in the whole, correspond exactly with the quantity of acres mentioned in the warrant, by virtue of which they were made; otherwise the Register will not be able to make up the records in his office, & issue the patents in the manner the same directs; but if I remember right, I explained this Subject fully in my last letter...spare no pains to get the best lands for me that the nature & situation of my locations will admit; as they are the first locations (of any considerable quantity) upon Panther Creek, & consequently have a preference, I hope you will be able to avoid yourself of this important circumstance to my advantage, it is an advantage that I have a legal & just right to; and was Capt. Lee's principal Inducement for making my locations at such a distance from the settlements. Where any survey bounds upon a creek a Creek or water-course, The courses of such Creek should not only be mentioned in the Certificate of Survey...the patents will be drawn verbatim according to the Certificates of Survey; and I have known many Law=Suits, thro' the neglect of Surveyors, for want of there necessary Insertions...the beginning Three or Trees of each Tract of each tract marked G. MASON the other corners all marked GM, & any remarkable object near any of them mentioned...I shall beg to have a copy of your field -notes to keep by me for my information... your opinion of the comparative quality of soil &c, of each tract; these things will be of great use to me; more specially if I should ever have occasion to sell any of the lands; and for any extraordinary trouble, which such remarks may occasion to you, I will thankfully make you such satisfaction (over & above your contract with Capt. Lee) as you may think just & reasonable In case you do not return yourself, soon after having made there surveys, they should be transmitted to me by some safe hand; that I may return them to the land-office in the time prescribed by Law; which (if I remember right) must be within a year after they are made; and I would therefore have them leas date, as late as you conveniently can , before bringing or sending them in ; that I may have the longer time for returning them to the land-office, in case of miscarriage, or accidents. Capt. Hancock Lee tells me you are well acquainted with the contract he had, on my acct. with Mr. John May, in exchanging one of my eight thousand acre warrants, which was located upon the Ohio River, for a warrant of Mr. May's located upon Panther Creek; He says it was first intended that both these locations should be withdrawn; that so Mr. May's warrant might be located in the place of mine upon the Ohio, and my warrant in the place of his upon Panther Creek; but as this was neglected to be done, as it ought to have been, immediately, it will be very unsafe to do it now, as it would be losing that priority of Title & location, which we both now have, and might be the means of giving same younger intervening location the preference; by which are as both of might lose our land; this circumstance I mentioned to Mr. John May when he came to see me about this time twelve month, and propose to him as the safest & least troublesome method of carrying this agreement into execution, that my warrant located upon the Ohio should be surveyed in my name, and his upon Panther Creek surveyed in his name, in order to retain & secure the priority of Title in both places, and that we would afterwards exchange the surveys, by reciprocal assignments to each other, upon the certificates of Survey before they were returned into the land-office; this method Mr. May approved of as much as I did, & very readily agreed to it, as the surest & safest mode of proceeding; and as the only remaining difficulty was...we agreed to settle the difference...ourselves, in such manner as should be just & reasonable in which neither of us was under any apprehension of disagreeing..." He would not remain in private business very long as he soon became involved in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Mason, however, refused to sign and actively opposed its ratification by Virginia. His chief objection was that there was no "Declaration of Rights" in the document. The Bill of Rights was based upon his Virginia Declaration of Rights, authored in 1776. George Mason letters are rare in the marketplace, and seldom appear at auction. A few light dampstains, light chipping at margins, else very good.

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    Auction Dates
    October, 2007
    25th-26th Thursday-Friday
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